View from an Iceberg
The science goal for today is to complete 8 CTD casts. We load into our vessel, a Poca 500GR. We have discussed a 6 to 8 hour window of boat time with Gabriel the captain and Magnus our navigator and stocked up on 40 liters of benzene. The benzene sits in a clear jug by my side, from there funneled into the motor. The container size suggests it could hold double the amount reminding me that when Gabriel can’t get in close to Alison fjord to drop his fishing line he will head farther south and will need plenty of benzene to make the trip. Looking to the left I see another fisherman unloading 4 such containers – he has been out fishing all night and must have traveled a long distance.
The location of the casts is discussed with Magnus who relays the plan to Gabriel. We head east navigating the channel between two of Kullorsuaq’s neighboring islands Sarqardlerssuaq and Kiatagssuaq.
The first cast will be in a shallower channel than the later casts. The set up requires an adjustment as this boat is outfitted with a hand winch and requires a cable switch to support our CTD. Magnus and Gabriel are anxious to help with the set up for the CTD. Magnus ties off the connection with a bowline, and although he doesn’t know it by that name the knot seems to be universal. The clover-hitch is less familiar to him but he quickly figures out how to adapt it to a new situation. Their interest in the equipment and what it might ultimately tell us confirms the goal of working with the local community.
The winch set-up is one that is comfortable to the Greenlandic as they use it to lower line 1000 meters down for fishing. Several times during such a trip they will load hooks for 200 or more fish onto the line, lowering and hauling it back up by hand crank.
After the first cast we are faced with iced in conditions. Gabriel maneuvers the boat as best he can but we will not be able to get to the point we had hoped to collect next. Everywhere we look we are surrounded by ice, bits of mélange (ice rubble) cover the ice surface interspersed with larger icebergs. We attempt to make our way down different channels to see if there is a pathway around some of the ice but it appears we will need to make adjustments to the cast points.
The next cast point was designed to get in as close to the face of Alison (Nanatakavsaup) as possible. Gabriel and Magnus have a quick discussion. Magnus explains that Gabriel wants to get to a high vantage point for better visibility. We are thick in the center of the ice patch so Gabriel pulls up and stakes the boat onto an large iceberg, Magnus and Gabrial hop out onto the ice and after assuring us it is very safe invite us to join them – we don’t hesitate.
Gabriel heads high and looks all around. Ice. We will not be able to get the transect we had hoped but perhaps things will improve tomorrow as Magnus reminds us things can change quickly here.
We gather a cast where we are and then re-consult the GPS to move to another of our locations, in the end completing 8 cast during our first day in 8 successful hours on the water and look forward to more tomorrow, recalling that ‘things can change quickly here’.